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USDA awards $10 million to address several remaining aquaculture challenges


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded $10 million to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) to carry out a set of projects to solve specific aquaculture challenges.

Led by professor Yonathan Zohar, chair of marine biology, the Sustainable Aquaculture Systems Supporting Atlantic Salmon (SAS2) will address a range of challenges still hindering the success of emerging aquaculture platforms, and includes many academic and federal research institutes, as well as nine industry partners from across the U.S., Iceland, and Norway.

The SAS2 builds on another one of Zohar’s projects, the Recirculating Aquaculture Salmon Network (RAS-N), which looks to fill gaps of knowledge that still remain by looking into the main challenges in technology, biology, and engineering. SAS2 will take the found information, and implement it.

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“The mission is to enable an innovative, effective, and sustainable U.S. Atlantic salmon production platform that will transform the U.S. food and aquaculture systems and secure and increase high-quality and affordable seafood production for the world,” says Zohar, director of the Aquaculture Research Center at the Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology (IMET) on Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

Two-thirds of SAS2 will be dedicated to research, with the remaining third split evenly between education/workforce development, and extension/community engagement.

SAS2 includes 17 objectives, each addressing a particular remaining challenge to the large-scale implementation of land-based salmon aquaculture. For example, one priority is developing a domestic brood stock, so aquaculture facilities in the U.S. aren’t solely dependent on importing salmon eggs from Europe. Another objective is biologically treating the tons of solid waste the facilities produce, and converting it to fuel-grade biogas. Others focus on developing environmentally responsible feeds and ensuring optimal fish quality.